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Family Matters

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  17,519 Ratings  ·  787 Reviews
Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in t ...more
Paperback, Reprint Edition, 500 pages
Published November 18th 2003 by Vintage (first published December 31st 2001)
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Dec 19, 2014 Seemita rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all those with a heartbeat left.
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.
Flipping through the pages, my heart leapt many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? T
Jun 26, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
UPDATE....Nov. 17th ...Completed Book....Completed Review (STAGE 2)

This is my first book by Robinton Mistry. ( a dangerous novel to begin at 1am). Thankfully, the prior five hours sleep sustained me for another 5 hours. At which point,
I had to drift off again for a little more morning sleep.
Note: Today is Friday, Nov. 6th. (Hmmm, our daughter's 30th birthday)...
"FAMILY MATTERS". .....( see, I couldn't resist 'not' thinking of 'family')

I was inspired to read this from having read *Seemita's* re
Mar 07, 2010 Praj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Nariman counts his last breaths amid the serene violin rendition of Brahms Lullaby, played by Daisy, my mind races through a gloomy apartment where the stale odor of eau de cologne amalgamates in the air of misery thriving among the bustling of outside traffic and noisy vendors trying to earn their daily wage unaware of Nariman’s existence. The acridity of my parched throat makes me think about my death. Will I die as a happy soul or will death be a gift that I would crave in the course of vu ...more
Dec 12, 2010 Sue rated it really liked it
"Curious, he thought, how, if you knew a person long enough, he could elicit every kind of emotion from you, every possible reaction, envy, admiration, pity, irritation, fury, fondness, jealousy, love, disgust. But in the end all human beings became candidates for compassion, all of us, without exception...and if we could recognize this from the
beginning, what a saving in pain and grief and misery..."

This thought from Yezad (ch 17) sums up his moment of insight in this teeming story of generati
Apr 02, 2017 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Well, I read this the whole way through and Steve Urkel didn't appear once, folks.

This confirms my suspicion that Rohinton Mistry is one of the finest writers of our time. While I still preferred A Fine Balance of the two stories I've read by him (it was grander in scale), the more intimate Family Matters is still 100 percent 5-star fare with rich, evocative, Dickensian characters, set against the sprawling, corrupt, bustling backdrop of Bombay-soon-to-be-Mumbai, India.

When the 79-year-old patri
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, india
What, I didn't review Family Matters? Okay, here is the review :

Rohinton Mistry -

three novels, three five star ratings


Oct 17, 2010 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india
This book did for me what Suketu Mehta's "Bombay. Maximum City" couldn't - I could see, smell and feel the mega-city throughout the pages of this both realistic and nostalgic novel. I suppose that also my unability to throrouhghly enjoy non-fiction plays a role in this, I just need characters and plot to stay interested through a thick volume and Mistry provides both in a masterly way. Bombay and his protagonist's love and hate for the rotting and still lovely and lively place is one of the topi ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: absolutely anyone
I usually feel a little bit of glow after finishing any book. I have the bad habit of calling every book I just finished "my favorite" -- until I finish the next one. But in this case, I really must stress that Family Matters is one of the best books I have ever read. I never re-read books, but this is one of those rare gems that even I want to return to.

If you took all of Shakespeare's tragedies, condensed them into a story about one family, and set it in Bombay in the 1990s, this book would b
ETA: The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that:

1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and

2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family.

The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing.


All I can say is that this book made me
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
aPriL does feral sometimes
I liked this book after awhile, but initially, one of the characters, Coomy, irritated me so much I almost quit. Although the story is about a Mumbai family of Parsi's, and there are many Indian cultural-specific foods, religious customs and words mentioned, I felt this is a universal story about all affectionate, middle-class families. But on the other hand, the universality reminded me of the claustrophobic and eternal familial struggles of all human family life, which affect most families thr ...more
Sonia Gomes
Apr 07, 2009 Sonia Gomes rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: fantastic, india
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane S ☔
May 20, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
The one thing that is common to all cultures is the difficulties in taking care of our aged parents or other family members. So from the beginning this story really hit home, basically had something similar to this happen in my husband's family, although I felt this was a bit exaggerated. The characters were all well drawn, even the characters on the sidelines were interesting and the two young boys won my heart. It definitely showed the effects and strain on everyone in the family and even when ...more
Eric Wright
Sep 04, 2012 Eric Wright rated it it was amazing

Mistry transports us into the life of a struggling Parsi couple in Mumbai/Bombay. It is full of pathos and realism. His language graphically conjures up the characters, a tiny apartment, the marital tensions, the feelings of two young boys, the stresses of trying to cope with too little money and a naive employer, and particularly the deterioration in the health of the grandfather.

Nariman Vakeel is a 79 year old widower forces by circumstances and parents to reject his true love and marry withi
Nov 14, 2008 Craig rated it it was amazing
Rating: 4.5/5

This book is not surprisingly about a family. More specifically, it follows three generations of a Parsi family living in modern Mumbai (formerly Bombay). As the grandfather of the family, Nariman is likely the best candidate to be declared the main character of this novel, but it is truly and ensemble cast, with Nariman's step children Jal and Coomy, his daugther and son-in-law Roxanna and Yezda and his grandchildren Janghela and Murad all playing important roles.

This is an exquisi
Just arrived from Israel through BM.

This is the first book written by Rohinton Mistry that I've read and I really liked it.

The story is about the family of Nariman Vakeel, a 79 year old Parsi widower who suffers from Parkinson's disease. To worsen his physical health, he ends breaking his ankle, getting unable thus of getting around. Even living with his step-children, Coomy and Jal, they weren't able to take good care of their father.

By forcing the circumstances, Nariman is forced to move to th
Jul 17, 2007 Brinda rated it liked it
Took me a while to get into this one -- but once I was in, it was quite a remarkable read. Mistry spins a tale about Bombay through the story of one family undergoing dramatic yet completely plausible, at times quiet, ordinary events. Mistry is not trying to wow anyone through crash-boom-bang events, yet even in its subtlety this story had a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and betrayal and loss -- not just for the family, but for a city whose beauty and vibrance was contantly underscored by corru ...more
Julia Grundling
Jul 11, 2012 Julia Grundling rated it it was amazing
beautiful, beautiful and again - beautiful. what an amazing book !!

'a fine balance' by the same author is also on my top list, and i'm so glad this one made it there as well.

i simply don't have enough words to explain this book ... just read it ... now ... :)
David Cerruti
Jun 18, 2014 David Cerruti rated it it was amazing
Recommended to David by: Garima
Shelves: favorites, india
There is more to the title than first meets the eye. Is it family MATTERS? Or is it FAMILY matters? The meaning of “matters” evolves as the story progresses. Mistry discusses this, and much more, in a 51 minute interview for WAMU, on Sept. 30, 2002.

That interview was part of the book tour that, unfortunately, occurred too soon after 9-11. According to a November 3, 2002 BBC report: “Canadian author, Rohinton Mistry, has cancelled the second half of his US
Jun 22, 2015 Tejaswini rated it really liked it
It was like reading a play with the characters performing so well. The characters like the letter-writer,shop owner, violinist, gambler were very unique though playing the supporting cast were quite unique and lovable too. Sad that I was ignorant about this Indian author. Really loved reading this book.
Stella  ☢FAYZ☢ Chen
A very slow novel that contain heart-felt moments and funny little devious schemes.

Thia book, as I found out through my English teacher, has deeper meaning than just family. WHY CAN'T SOMETHING JUST BE SIMPLE. WHY MUST I OVER-ANALYSE THIS?
Feb 08, 2017 Ambar rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, india, tragedy
It's a classic Rohinton Mistry, nobody expects the man to paint happy little rainbows, but melancholia seeps through the pages of Family Matters. In some ways, it's reminiscent of A Fine Balance, the manner in which characters are affected by events larger than themselves, but manage to trudge along until Mistry decides, in one fell swoop, to unleash all the horrors of hell upon them. In other ways, it's more like Such A Long Journey, with its focus on familial affairs and a (relative) tunnel vi ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a big fat Dickensian story set in India. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my taste for big fat Dickensian stories. I enjoyed the book, but not excessively. What I found most interesting was the insight into family life, attitudes and restrictions. And how much American pop culture has infiltrated India. It was interesting to see how they hopped back and forth between English and various Indian languages. The book would have benefited from a glossary, though. If I had known what some of ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Vaidya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After all, what is happiness? And how much can houses contain them? How is it that houses that have growing children are so lively and the moment they end up teenagers the balance shifts to uneasiness? What about happiness in houses that have sick elderly and them having to be put up with and taken care of? How you can perceive the same situation with love, with adventure and growing despair & turn to religion based on what you are: a child, a loving daughter or the person struggling to hold ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Jane rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
I want to like this book. I remember reading A Fine Balance and being moved by it. I thought it was somewhat melodramatic and that while some of the characters were interesting, many seemed one dimensional, particularly the "bad" guys. Both things feel particularly true about this book so far.

Nariman is the aging patriarch of the family, Jal and Coomy's step father. He's salt of the earth. You get that from the first page. And Jal and Coomy are not nice. Ungrateful wretches. When Nariman, who h
Oct 19, 2016 Marguerite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rohinton Mistry’s account of a family in Bombay is lush, intimate and punctuated by the small and large moral choices that face humans daily. There is a family history that governs the tensions and grudges of the living, who can’t know the whole story of what came before. In the patient unfolding of that history, we see parallels and breaks with the past. Mistry’s writing is gorgeous:

“And then it struck her like a revelation – of what, she could not say. Hidden by the screen of damp clothes, she
Nov 24, 2012 Kata rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love India. I absolutely love India. Every facet of it. If reincarnation exists, then there is something in my soul that says this very pale creature born and raised in the Midwest, in another life lived in India. Have I ever been to India? God, no! I'm poor. I spend all my money on books. Though someday, I do hope to travel there. Everyone has dreams.

Mistry delves into a cultural/familial debacle right from the start of this book, who cares for an ailing parent? In modern Bombay, as many Asia
Jun 16, 2012 Sophie rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Like any relationship, family takes a lot of work and and naturing. Sometimes it's loving, sometimes it's dysfunctional. But, good or bad, you only have one family.

Family Matters tells a story of one middle-class family in Mumbai (Bombay), India. The grandfather, Nariman, suffers from Parkinson's disease. His two step-children, Coomy and Jal, live with him and are their caretakers. Roxana, Nariman's real daughter, lives a happy life with her husband, Yezad, and her two children, Murad and Jehang
Oct 23, 2009 notgettingenough rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in real India
Shelves: indian
Some years ago I found myself collecting a rather appalling statistic. Women in India who are burned to death by their husbands, often in collusion with the mother of the husband. The preferred method is to douse the wife in petrol and then set alight. It generally does the trick, though unfortunately sometimes one ends up with a dreadfully disfigured wife who survives.

The real eye-opening thing about this practice is that it is a middle-class commonplace. The woman burned to death may well have
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Rohinton Mistry is considered to be one of the foremost authors of Indian heritage writing in English. Residing in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mistry belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian religious minority.

Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), brought him national and international recognition. Mistry’s subsequent novels have achieved the same level of recognition as his first. His second n
More about Rohinton Mistry...

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“Everyone underestimates their own life. Funny thing is, in the end, all our stories...they're the same. In fact, no matter where you go in the world, there is only one important story: of youth, loss and yearning for redemption. So we tell the same story, over and over. Only the details are different. ” 179 likes
“What folly made young people, even those in middle age, think they were immortal? How much better, their lives, if they could remember the end. Carrying your death with you every day would make it hard to waste time on unkindness and anger and bitterness, on anything petty. That was the secret: remembering your dying time, in order to keep the stupid and the ugly out of your living time.” 26 likes
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